The Chattanooga judge overseeing the Pilot Travel Centers fraud case has directed prosecutors to rank the 17 defendants in order of culpability for purposes of sentencing.
Judge Curtis Collier said he plans to handle the sentencings in groups of three or four.
Authorities said earlier that those who entered guilty pleas were facing up to five years in prison, while those who went to trial faced up to 20 years.
A jury last week found Karen Mann not guilty, but returned single convictions against Heather Jones and former Pilot national sales director Scott Wombold. Former Pilot president Mark Hazelwood was found guilty of three felony counts. He is under home confinement at his Knoxville residence.
Judge Collier said in an order, "The Court intends to conduct the sentencing hearings in groups of three or four Defendants at a time. In order to guide the Court in scheduling the sentencing hearings in an orderly and logical manner, the United States (the “Government”) SHALL file a document listing Defendants in order of the Government’s approximation of their respective culpability within seven days of the issuance of this Order. The Government may include any other information it believes is relevant to scheduling the sentencing hearings. Any Defendant MAY file an optional response within seven days of the Government’s filing.
"The purpose of this Order is solely to facilitate the orderly and just sentencing of the multiple Defendants in this case. The Court does not expect—and will not review—a sentencing memorandum on any Defendant at this time, and no party will be limited to the opinion or position it states in any response to this Order."
The case involves a scheme to defraud trucking companies of promised rebates.
Other defendants to be sentenced are John Freeman, Vicki Borden, John Spiewak, Katy Bibee, Ashley Judd, Arnie Ralenkotter, Jay Stinnett, Holly Radford, Kevin Clark, Michael Scott Fenwick, Janet Welch, Chris Andrews, Brian Mosher and Lexie Holden.
Many of those testified during the lengthy trial at the Federal Courthouse in Chattanooga that began in early November.